Bilal, Nola Ade | City Winery | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Bilal, Nola Ade Recommended All Ages Soundboard Image

When: Fri., Jan. 2, 8 p.m. 2015

It’s curious that many of the same people currently hailing D’Angelo’s Black Messiah were silent when R&B singer Bilal released his last two albums, 2010’s Airtight’s Revenge (Plug Research) and 2013’s A Love Surreal (eOne). Like D’Angelo, Bilal was a member of the Soulquarians—a loose collective of like-minded hip-hop and R&B artists that included Erykah Badu, Questlove, and Common—and took a long time to follow up a critically well-received album (2001’s 1st Born Second). And though he’s a distinctly different kind of singer than D’Angelo—more Terence Trent D’Arby or Maxwell than Sly Stone or Bobby Womack—he’s no less adventurous (and maybe even more sophisticated). On both albums Bilal frequently uses knowing wordplay to sing about personal turmoil: Airtight’s standout track, “All Matter,” goes for the kind of imagery that Brian Wilson used on “Til I Die” with the lyrics “Like pollen in the spring breeze / A speck of dust / In this vast universe.” And he attacks bent rhythms and usually live instrumentation with vocal melodies that dive and somersault. Bilal puts the “adult” in adult contemporary, but his music is far from contemporary—it’s deeply aware of the past while signaling R&B’s future. Bilal also plays at City Winery on Thu 1/1. —Tal Rosenberg

Price: $30

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